Teaching phonics comes alongside – or after – introducing handwriting skills. As with each level of language arts, there is plenty of flexibility and overlap in the age range since every child is different.
I am giving general guidelines and suggestions for ages so that you get an idea of a good time to be focusing on each level. Remember, as you (and your child) master one level, you carry it over to the next, and never stop using that skill!
Ideally, teaching phonics should start as a natural extension of parenting and become second-nature to both child & parent by the time formal school studies begin. How is this possible? Let’s find out!
This article is part of a series meant to encourage and prepare moms to teach language arts at home to their children using almost any program.
- My approach to teaching language arts is very loosely based on the Spalding method which I have adapted to meet our needs as a large homeschooling family who embraces a lifestyle of learning.
- My goal is to show you how to teach yourself language arts so that you can teach your children language arts – while instilling a love of learning in your children.
- You will learn how to be intentional in language arts instruction so that you are prepared and able to utilize almost any language arts curriculum to your benefit.
- You may even realize you can create your own curriculum using the simplest and cheapest materials like notebooks and pencils!
- I recommend that you teach language arts to your children by example as soon as possible as an extension of parenting.
All About Teaching Phonics For Homeschool Moms
First, let’s define exactly what phonics is. Understanding what phonics is will help you understand why it is an important foundation for language arts.
Definition of phonics:
- 1. the science of sound
- 2. a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning the phonetic value of letters, letter groups, and especially syllables
A symbol representing a vocal sound.
Phonics In Real Life
- Gentle phonics instruction may start around age two by looking for opportunities to teach them in lighthearted ways.
- A toddler naturally mimics and repeats what they hear others around them say. Therefore, phonics is already happening, but only in speech.
- Making a phonetic connection to the written word and reading is really quite simple if you are intentional about it. This is where you as the parent-teacher must put in the effort.
- Just as you teach your child how to say words, you will teach them how to say the sounds of the letters (phonics). Just as you teach them to say/sing their ABCs, you will teach them the sounds those letters make.
Why Phonics First?
- The benefits of teaching single and multi-letter phonograms (sounds) first rather than just the names/ABCs are that your child will associate letters/words with their phonetic sounds from the start.
- Instead of seeing letters and only recognizing the letter names, they will recognize the sounds those letters make and so eventually – and more easily – learn spelling, writing, and reading skills.
- Starting with phonics when teaching language arts is the opposite of the other popular way of teaching reading, which is to teach sight words or whole-word recognization.
The problem with sight-reading is that the child will not always learn to spell well or at all. Reading new words as an adult will often be difficult and pronunciation worse!
I ran into these issues myself as an adult. That is why I am passionate about giving my children a solid foundation in phonics before teaching reading – which ironically, is teaching them to read well!
Phonics For Kids
Practical Ways To Start Phonics At Any Age
- Find a phonics/spelling/reading/language arts program that teaches phonics first – and teach yourself.
- Remember, it is normal for children to be 8 and older before understanding all or any language arts concepts.
- Find a program that teaches via DVD or Audio so that you are hearing the phonetic sounds and can teach them correctly. All About Learning Press has an app that teaches all of the phonograms, however, not all of the pronunciation sounds correct (the consonants l and y are the two main ones that are not phonetically correct sounding on the app)
- Do this before starting any formal schooling with your child. I highly recommend that you learn phonics when your oldest is still a toddler so that you are implementing those skills as soon as possible.
Even if your child is of school age, plan on starting the program yourself a little ahead of teaching your child. Don’t worry, you should catch on quite quickly to the phonics basics and then can start teaching your child as you continue learning.
Often, reading through the Teacher’s Manual, listening to an audio with all 70+ phonograms, or watching a DVD lesson is all you need to get started. If you are starting with an older child (around age 8 or so), then they can start the lessons with you.
Let them know mom is learning, too. It is never too late to learn phonics or teach phonics!
Sidenote: if you have a child who can already read, but cannot spell well, then teaching them basic phonics is where you should start in order to improve their spelling skills. I did this with my oldest child starting at around age seven.
Take A Gentle Approach!
- Though I mentioned that you should start teaching phonics around age two, I am not talking about starting a rigid schedule or any seatwork that young!
- I wait until at least age six before I get very serious, create a “school time in our day”, or require any seatwork of my child at all. My current 6-year-old does around 15-minutes of seatwork each school day – that’s it for all of her formal lessons!
- Keeping my toddlers occupied during school hours while I am teaching my older kids may be called “school time” in our home (for all of us), but it is really just educational play where they are practicing pre-handwriting skills.
- The phonics stage looks more like interacting, communicating, and exploring with your child in the early years. It looks less like school and more like parenting.
- Once you know the phonograms yourself, you can start introducing them to your child throughout the day, every day.
- Think of it in the same way you teach them manners or other life-skills – using any given moment or opportunity to instruct them.
Don’t worry about implementing every example every day. Just do one or two and you will find that in mere minutes a day, you are building a foundation that will benefit them for years to come.
- Teach your child to speak clearly. Having them watch your mouth/tongue to learn pronunciation is helpful.
- When you read to them, take a minute to point out a word in the story, and sound it out slowly to them.
- When you drive, ask them if they know what the red sign says (stop sign) and help them sound it out.
- Hang up an alphabet chart and instead of teaching them to say/sing their ABCs, recite the sounds.
- Play phonics games with them.
- When they ask you what something says, don’t just tell them. Help them sound out a couple of the simplest words.
- Choose educational toys that teach the correct phonograms.
- Let them play with alphabet letters/blocks and take a minute to build a simple word (mom) with them while sounding it out.
- Teach phonograms when teaching letter formation/handwriting.
- Help them discover the incredible world of words and ignite their desire to learn how to read!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments and I’ll do my best to address them!